TiVo

All posts tagged TiVo

TiVo...

Top, L to R: Clock, TiVo Roamio OTA, Roku N1000. Middle: DVD/VCR, infrequently used remotes.

Our cord-cutting arsenal:

Ooma Telo internet phone device

5 TVs: LED (2), plasma, flat-tube, ’83 CRT
TiVo Roamio OTA 4-tuner DVR
TiVo Mini extender (2)
Mohu Sky 60 powered outdoor antenna
Winegard FlatWave indoor antenna (2)

Roku streaming media player (3)
Chromecast streaming media player
Blu-ray player

TiVo “Peanut” remote (3)
Logitech Harmony 890 remote
X10 universal 5-in-1 learning remote.
Smartphone

Netflix & Amazon Prime subscriptions

Windows 7 PCs / free Plex &
Emby software to serve
music/TV/movie libraries.
Windows 7 PC / free Windows
Media Center DVR with
recordings on external drive.

Raspberry Pi computer w/ free OSMC, PleXBMC, & ServerWMC software
to access content on Win 7 PCs

X10 analog video sender / receiver
Powerline network adapter (4)
Gigabit Ethernet switch (2)
Kinovo HDMI switch
Powered USB hub (2)

(A list entitled “Our cord-cutting arsenal” appears at the bottom-right of this blog. It shows the hardware and software we use for all five of our TVs. But since you can’t tell which items are in each room, I am breaking it down by room, highlighting the hardware in light yellow, content in white. This is number 4 of 5 rooms.)

The den being my wife’s base of operations, it was critical to get it right.

Getting it right mostly entailed putting in a TiVo Roamio OTA with a good antenna. (See Cutting the TV cable with TiVo Roamio OTA and Mohu Sky 60 antenna review .)

Although there is a 1st generation Roku, it is hardly needed now that the Roamio has Netflix, Amazon Prime, VUDU, Plex, iHeart Radio and Pandora. The Roku does have a few channels I like in addition to the aforementioned.

Also rarely used now is a DVD/VCR combo. but it’s there.

Without a cable box, a clock was needed. I ordered this one: Gearonic LED Digital Cube Clock.

Other details of the final configuration:

In order to view the HD programming from the TiVo on our 2002 tube TV. which can only accept component input, an HDMI-to-component converter was needed. (See previous post, Replace the old TV?)

A gigabit switch connects the TiVo Minis in the kitchen and the theater room to the Roamio, using Ethernet cable. This is the switch that was a 5-port model until the lightning strike turned it into a 4-port.

Internet is provided by a Powerline adapter (also connected to the gigabit switch). It talks to its counterpart in the office where the modem is located. (See previous post Powerline vs. Ethernet wiring.)

X10 video sender

X10 video sender on the den TV

We still have an X10 sender hooked to the TiVo’s composite output. (See The workout room TV setup for my wife)

The TiVo’s Netflix & Amazon apps stream subscription content. Plex media server software running on our Windows 7 PCs with TV/movie libraries streams our own content to the TiVo’s Plex channel.

She uses the TiVo remote, and her iPhone to control X10 automation; I use the X10 universal 5-in-1 learning remote and an Android smartphone. (See previous post Den: wifi smartphone & learning remote.)

Coming soon to complete the tour: the theater room. Lots of stuff in there.

TiVo BOLT

Brand new offering from TiVo, priced at $300.

New features:

  • SkipMode: One click of the remote skips an entire commercial break on recorded programs.
  • QuickMode: Speed up recordings by 30% using pitch-corrected audio. (Some cable networks are doing it at their end so they can shoehorn in more commercials).
  • 4K Ultra High Definition.

Includes 1 year of prepaid TiVo service.

After the prepaid year, the service cost is $150/year (average $12.50/month). So effectively, you are paying $150 for the BOLT and $150 in advance for a year of service. The yearly $150 charge is auto-renewed unless you cancel before the renewal date by phone.

A $15/mo option carries a one-year commitment and a $75 early termination fee (not very attractive compared with the yearly option).

We bought a TiVo Roamio OTA eight months ago for $50, with a one-year commitment to pay $15/mo ($180/year) for service. It was a bit of a gamble since I didn’t know for sure how well it would go over. But my wife was so sold on it, we were able to cut the TV cable, and have saved a lot of money already. (See previous post Cord-cutting: What DID work for us.)

From our savings, we bought TiVo Minis for the kitchen and the theater room. Our Minis would work with the new BOLT at no additional charge, same as the OTA and other Roamio series DVRs.

The BOLT’s new SkipMode and QuickMode features are very tempting. I believe my “client” would love them. But our one-year commitment on the Roamio OTA won’t be up until 1/30/2016, so I may need to wait until next year to consider buying. I am checking with TiVo about this, and will report back here. (Later note: I was correct; we must complete the year.)

If you don’t have such a commitment in effect, you are free to jump right in.

The Complete Service Plan Terms and Conditions (see 4th question in TiVo’s FAQ) state that buying from a non-TiVo retail outlet such as Amazon gets you an additional option, the “All-In Plan”. This is a one-time payment of $600 for lifetime (the life of the box, that is) TiVo service. However, TiVo has available product and free shipping for orders placed directly with them.

With the All-In Plan, you would begin to save $150/year after 4 years of use. (Make that 5, per reader JM; see his comment below.) But here we are, thinking about switching boxes after less than a year. You should consider the probabilities that you will want to stay with the same product long enough to start reaping the savings, and that the box doesn’t conk out on you.

On the other hand, a BOLT on a monthly or yearly service plan comes with a Continual Care warranty, so your box is backed up to a degree should anything ever go wrong (unless due to misuse or force majeure, e.g., lightning; see our own lightning saga). The warranty will replace a non-working BOLT for $50 (plus shipping and any applicable taxes) as long as continuous, active TiVo service is maintained.

Our $50 Roamio OTA was the cheapest way to try TiVo. I now believe we will be using TiVo products to save money on cable TV for a long time to come.

Read more about the BOLT at Amazon and TiVo.

Our kitchen TiVo Mini

Our kitchen TiVo Mini, LG 24″ LED TV, TiVo remote.

Our cord-cutting arsenal:

Ooma Telo internet phone device

5 TVs: LED (2), plasma, flat-tube, ’83 CRT
TiVo Roamio OTA 4-tuner DVR
TiVo Mini extender (2)
Mohu Sky 60 powered outdoor antenna
Winegard FlatWave indoor antenna (2)

Roku streaming media player (3)
Chromecast streaming media player
Blu-ray player

TiVo “Peanut” remote (3)
Logitech Harmony 890 remote
X10 universal 5-in-1 learning remote.
Smartphone

Netflix & Amazon Prime subscriptions

Windows 7 PCs / free Plex &
Emby software to serve
music/TV/movie libraries.
Windows 7 PC / free Windows
Media Center DVR with
recordings on external drive.

Raspberry Pi computer w/ free OSMC, PleXBMC, & ServerWMC software
to access content on Win 7 PCs

X10 analog video sender / receiver
Powerline network adapter (4)
Gigabit Ethernet switch (2)
Kinovo HDMI switch
Powered USB hub (2)

(You may have seen the list entitled “Our cord-cutting arsenal” appearing at the bottom-right of this blog. It shows the hardware and software we use for all five of our TVs. But since you can’t tell which items are in each room, I will break it down by room, highlighting the hardware in light yellow.)

The kitchen is now a simple TV room. The TiVo Mini is responsible for that change.

Years ago, because of my wife’s need to watch “General Hospital” recordings while cooking, I put together a too-complicated Rube Goldberg setup. But it was either that, or renting a cable box with DVR dedicated to the kitchen.

She had to switch the den TV to VIDEO1, change its audio setting to SPEAKERS OFF, FIXED AUDIO OUT, and turn on the den X10 video sender. Then she could control the den cable DVR box via the kitchen X10 receiver’s IR extender. (The extender relayed the Cox remote’s commands to the sender, which converted them to pulses from its IR emitter, which was attached to the Cox cable box.)

Then she (or I) had to switch it all back to watch in the den.

Whew!

Since X10 is old analog technology, it looks best on a tube TV rather than a new flatscreen. We bought a new 13″ tube TV back in 2006 from Best Buy. The picture tube eventually faded, and it had to be whacked sometimes to make the sound work. The microwave fritzed the X10 radio frequency whenever it was used, so the TV had to be muted.

Not great, then barely serviceable.

Enter the TiVo Mini and a new LED TV.

Now all she has to do is turn on the new LED TV and the TiVo Mini, both with the kitchen-dedicated TiVo remote, and select episodes recorded on the TiVo Roamio in the den.

She is much happier now. The 13″ was carted back to Best Buy (Best Buy accepts 3 dead electronics items per day).

The outdated X10 technology still has a place, though: The workout room TV setup for my wife. The TiVo Roamio in the den even simplified it considerably.

(A few additional details from a slightly different angle in the earlier post The fruits of cord-cutting: new TVs, TiVo Mini.)

Two rooms to go: the den and the theater room.

Or even the 70s

“8’s The Place” promo by Carl “Uncle Zeb” Bartholomew from the late 70s/early 80s.

Our cord-cutting arsenal:

Ooma Telo internet phone device

5 TVs: LED (2), plasma, flat-tube, ’83 CRT
TiVo Roamio OTA 4-tuner DVR
TiVo Mini extender (2)
Mohu Sky 60 powered outdoor antenna
Winegard FlatWave indoor antenna (2)

Roku streaming media player (3)
Chromecast streaming media player
Blu-ray player

TiVo “Peanut” remote (3)
Logitech Harmony 890 remote
X10 universal 5-in-1 learning remote.
Smartphone

Netflix & Amazon Prime subscriptions

Windows 7 PCs / free Plex &
Emby software to serve
music/TV/movie libraries.
Windows 7 PC / free Windows
Media Center DVR with
recordings on external drive.

Raspberry Pi computer w/ free OSMC, PleXBMC, & ServerWMC software
to access content on Win 7 PCs

X10 analog video sender / receiver
Powerline network adapter (4)
Gigabit Ethernet switch (2)
Kinovo HDMI switch
Powered USB hub (2)

You may have seen the list entitled “Our cord-cutting arsenal” appearing at the bottom-right of this blog. It shows the hardware and software we use for all five of our TVs. But since you can’t tell which items are in each room, I am breaking it down by room, highlighting the hardware used in light yellow, the content in white.

I’ll start with the workout room (a guest bedroom with a Bowflex in it).

It also has a 13″ 1983 analog tube TV with an X10 video receiver attached to it. That’s it, no antenna, no digital tuner.

It gets all its programming from the den TiVo Roamio via X10 video sender.

When my wife works out, she likes to catch up on recorded “General Hospital” episodes.

Here’s her simple setup:

  • Turn on the den X10 video sender.
  • Turn on the workout room TV.

She then controls the den TiVo Roamio with the free TiVo app on her phone, enabling her to watch her recorded shows or live TV, content from Netflix and Amazon via their TiVo apps, or our own TV/movie library via the Plex app!

The quality is as good as an old analog TV can deliver (surprisingly good).

I try to keep the sender off when not in use because it jams the crowded 2.4 GHz band used by older wifi routers; see previous post Conflict between Wifi, X10 video sender. The X10 receiver is always on. The TV is always on channel 3.

The TiVo’s composite output is hooked directly to the X10 sender.

(TiVo’s HDMI output is still hooked to COMPONENT1 on the den TV, via the HDFury Gamer 2 HDMI-to-component video converter. Read more about this in a previous post, Replace the old TV?)

This higher band, greater range 5.8GHZ Wireless AV Transmitter & Receiver is currently cheaper than our X10 sender/receiver pair. Neither requires wiring, both work best with an old tube TV.

If we had the house wired for internet, we could just stick another TiVo Mini in the workout room.

But this poor man’s Mini is perfectly adequate for our low time and attention usage in that room. (I usually listen to music or the radio while I work out.)

Later note: the above arrangement may seem a bit odd, but I got an email from a reader with a similar setup, so I’m not the only one!

The other four TV rooms to follow in future posts.

(PS, This is post #100!)

3 weeks ago in Cozumel, Mexico. Today in Tulsa, it is 9º F.

How we use our cord-cutting savings.

I could make this the briefest post ever if I just said “TiVo”.

It was certainly the key cord-cutting move for us. (See previous posts Cord-cutting status report #1 and Cutting the TV cable with TiVo Roamio OTA.)

TiVo Roamio OTA

TiVo Roamio

The TiVo Roamio, aside from being an extremely user-friendly DVR and TV tuner, has built-in access to video providers YouTube, Netflix, Amazon Instant Video (including Prime), Hulu Plus, MLB.TV, and VUDU (video on demand service).

Your favorite shows and series from all these can be easily integrated into the “My Shows” list of recordings. (See Streaming video as cable substitute.)

For example, my wife likes to watch the cable show “Hoarders” in the den (her HQ) on Saturday, so we added it to “My Shows”. It appears as any other recorded show, but when you click, all episodes from all seasons are listed. Some episodes are currently available on Netflix and newer ones are available on VUDU. So you pick one, select a provider, and watch. (See TiVo’s new OnePass feature: boon to cord-cutters.)

Of course, the Netflix or other options work only if you have a subscription, the VUDU option only if you have set up an account with them. (Episodes are $1.99-2.99/episode on VUDU, depending on whether you want SD or HD).

These “cloud” shows take up no space on your TiVo’s hard drive.

If you are saving as much as we are, you feel freer to pay for programming you really want. We recently bought the first season of “Better Call Saul” on Amazon Instant Video (it is not available on Amazon Prime currently).

Recently added apps include Plex, iHeart Radio, Pandora, and Spotify (subscription only). These are not integrated in the same way as the video providers, but it is great to have them (especially Plex!)

All these TiVo features combined render other devices such as Roku, Chromecast, Apple TV, or “smart TV” optional for many people.

TiVo’s program guide and interface are superior to the cable box/DVR we had.  More recent iterations such as the Hopper by DISH, Genie by DirecTV, and Contour by Cox created competitive pressure that resulted in the much-improved Roamio series.

Our kitchen TiVo Mini

Our kitchen TiVo Mini

The TiVo service costs $15/month, but a great way to get more for your money is to add a TiVo Mini (no extra charge beyond the cost of the device).

This is a little box that attaches to the mothership by Ethernet cable (or MoCA, Multimedia over Coax). We added two Minis, one for the kitchen, one for the theater room. (See The fruits of cord-cutting: new TVs, TiVo Mini.)

Our TiVo Roamio OTA has 4 tuners, and dynamically allocates them to each Mini as needed. If too many tuners are in use by viewers when a recording starts, viewers will be asked to click Select if they want to continue watching. If not, or if there is no response, the Roamio will take back the tuner and reassign it.

Other models have 6 tuners if 4 is not enough.

Having one recording repository serve every TiVo box makes it convenient to switch rooms in mid-program.

With a TiVo and a good antenna, you might well be able to cut the cable cord while keeping things as simple as they can be! (See previous posts Placing an indoor TV antennaHigh winds can affect TV reception and Mohu Sky 60 antenna review.)


This one got toasted by a lightning srike.

One minor complication you might enjoy is a Roku.

Like the TiVo Roamio, it has YouTube, Netflix, Amazon, Hulu Plus, MLB.TV, VUDU, Plex, Pandora, Spotify and iHeart Radio.

But in addition, it has a multitude of other free channels, some of the best of which are: Crackle, Comedy Central, Sky News International (HD), Shout Factory, Nowhere TV, and Tunein with thousands of free radio stations. (See Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee on Crackle.)

Other subscription channels include Sling TV, HBO GO, ESPN, and Showtime. (See Cord-cutters’ supplement? Introducing Sling TV.)

The remote is simple to operate.

If any of the additional channels grab you, a Roku is a good one-time investment to expand your choices.


Google Chromecast with HDMI extender cable, microUSB cable, USB power supply.

Google Chromecast

Google’s Chromecast device is an alternative to Roku, but smartphone-centric; you “cast” apps up to the big screen.

Castable apps include most of the usual suspects mentioned above (Netflix, Crackle, Plex, Pandora, etc.), with the notable exception of Google competitor, Amazon.

YouTube is an especially natural fit to this mode of viewing.

I previously described my devious method of using a Chrome browser tab and Chromecast to get 24/7 web versions of CNN, msnbc, and CNBC up onto the big screen. (See Use Chromecast to watch online cable news.)

If you are one of those guys who insists on entertaining with his smartphone, Chromecast will give you a much bigger stage to work your magic.


Linksys WRT54G router and Ooma Telo

Our Ooma on the right

An Ooma Telo VoIP (voice over internet) device replaced our landline phone service.

My wife does all her business calling and texting on her iPhone.

But I still like having cordless phones around the house, even though I text with Google Voice on my wifi-only smartphone. I was able to keep our old phone number with a one-time $40 charge.

The voice quality is very good. The only downside I’ve found is a slight delay, similar to cell phones I’ve talked on.

At a monthly cost of less than $4 in taxes, it’s a small indulgence. (See Cord-cutting: Hold the phone!)

Ooma was the first cord-cutting move documented in this blog.


There is more to learn and remember as you expand.

There are optional but more complicated things you can do.

Run free Plex or Emby software on your PCs, and serve video and music to your laptops, phones, and tablets, and to your TVs via Roku or Chromecast. (See 007 24/7 on Plex Media ServerPoolside fun with Plex remote access, and Media Browser: an alternative to Plex.)

Replace TiVo at a lower or no monthly fee with Tablo DVR or Channel Master DVR+, or Windows Media Center, or freeware like NextPVR. Warning: they all could work for you, depending on your needs, but none are as user-friendly as TiVo. (See RIP Windows Media Center (in 5-8 yrs).)

Save a TiVo-recorded show as an .mpg file, maybe later convert it to .mp4 for Plex use. Thanks to reader JJ’s comment on the previous post, I learned how to do it. I just followed all the steps at the Windows Install link on this page: pyTivo (free server software).

Run free media center software such as OSMC (formerly XBMC) on a Linux-based machine such as the Raspberry Pi. I use my Pi as a front-end presentation for Windows Media Center DVR software running on a network-attached Windows 7 PC. With the free PleXBMC add-on, the Pi also front-ends Plex servers running on other household PCs. In addition, it offers unique free content, such as ESPN3 in HD. The interface is slick and stylish, with many free skins available to radically change the look.

The Pi is flexible and fun, but setting-rich and sometimes frustrating; recommended more for the tinkerer than the casual user. (See previous posts Raspberry Pi computer leads to Atari on Wii“Let’s kill Uncle first!”Windows Media Center & Raspberry Pi, and The missing context button.)


The tool that enabled evolution.

Logitech Harmony 890

Here are a couple of ways I tamed some of the complexity created by adding new boxes and new modes of delivering media to our theater room:

A Logitech Harmony remote eliminated a bucketful of remotes for the all the above devices, plus Blu-ray, receiver, HD radio, VCR, etc. The Harmony online database knows about all your devices by model number, and gives you workable default button settings for all your activities. You can customize to a high degree, and I’ve had a lot of obsessive fun getting it just right for me.

Ultimately, the Harmony unifies and simplifies your TV experience. Best money I ever spent. (See 2014: A Cord-Cutting OdysseyLogitech Harmony 650Cloning the TiVo “Peanut” remote.)

When I can’t remember off-hand which show is where, I look at Our post-cord-cutting TV menu on my smartphone.


The most important lesson I have learned:

Keep the basic TV/DVR system user-friendly and reliable. This maximizes the wife acceptance factor needed to successfully cut the cord.

I enjoy dealing with the complexity entailed by extra functionality, but my wife and many other sane and smart people do not. You can have simple, or complex, or both co-existing as we now do.

As The Keeper of Talos iV (above) thought, “May you find your way as pleasant.”